Anyim and the teacher on the altar

B Busuyi Mekusi


A teacher, among many other responsibilities, helps students to gain knowledge, competence, and virtue. In religious parlance, teachers help their followers to attain morals, earn virtues and acquire skills that would make them better people in the society. In earlier times, priests and prophets, who were well treated, unlike contemporary Nigeria where their rewards are supposed to be received in heaven, impacted noble and wealthy children with skills, that were required to help them excel in business and politics. With the ancient word for teacher being ‘Lorthew’, in the 5th Century BCE, Confucius was considered to be the first private teacher, who taught history. History, basically has to do with selective but almost verisimilitude of the past, was abandoned for few years in Nigeria, and we simply forgot to recognise where the rain started beating us, as suggested by Chinua Achebe.

Plato was the central figure behind evaluation, appreciation and interrogation, as he started his appraisal with the activities of artists/poets who he seamlessly banished from his Republic. Today, literary appreciation has been taken to the maximum level guaranteed by liberalisation, so much that every aspect of human existence gets examined. At informal levels in contemporary world, people carry out evaluation, appreciation and condemnation, as the case may be, not minding the sensibilities of others, or the appropriateness or otherwise of the context and veracity. Unfortunately, people also do not always remember that learning is infinite, whereas anything or everything is a teacher. As a result, learning, both in schools and outside, enjoys sizeable liberalisation, so much that the good, the bad and the ugly are subjects of learning and teaching. Interestingly, while witchcraft is taught and learnt in South Africa and some European countries, witchcrafts are objects of spiritual and physical vilifications in Nigeria.

Painfully, the currency and quality of what is taught in Nigeria, at both formal and informal levels, has plummeted, due to the lowly capacity of teachers and diminished commitment of students. The internet is an unpardonable enemy of the 21st generation, that gets them distracted beyond measure. Whereas some have blamed outdated curricula for what is called the fallen standard of education in Nigeria, others have adduced poor infrastructure, being a generative of poor funding, for the gradual evaporation of the successes recorded in the education sector, which produced few Noble Laurel and Fulbright Nigerians. The first and second generation postcolonial Nigerians were privileged with the British educational templates that were at par with what were obtainable back in the colonial Empire. The decolonisation initiatives that were meant to indigenise educational planning, management and operations soon faltered to the region of nepotism and corruption.

Up until the recent, teachers at the various levels of Nigeria education were close to the wretched of the earth, with poor welfare package open to them abysmally inadequate, when compared to other sectors of the economy. Education faculties in Nigeria higher institutions are filled, substantially, with people that are considered to be of lower cognition and aptitudes, when compared to their peers. Teachers that get recruited into the different layers of education are unwilling tutors, forced to the profession by unemployment, who are averagely products of equitable sharing of opportunities or political patronage. These set of people are not only unprepared to teach, but they lack the capacity to deliver. Amidst the palpable unserious attitude of students, the luxuriousness of the schools parents put their children and wards have become an undependable parameter to determine the academic performance of learners. The fact remains that the cognitive ability of a student, complemented with good learning protocols, would help a student make a success of his/her academic pursuit, and not exclusively the latter.

The academic behaviours of some students in Nigeria higher institutions call to question the foundational lower systems that produced them. In the almost twenty five years of my teaching in the university, students, at different times, have demonstrated either lack of knowing or inability to know. Some others would gleefully repeat errors emphasised and corrected, thereby making fixation not merely a psychological misbehaviour but an instance of attitudinal dysfunctionality. The English now remains a veritable official and language of instruction in Nigeria, with the sing-sung made about its domestication ameliorating the sense of sustained colonialism that some people still see in it. Responding to an error in a song rendition in the past, the Afro-Juju King, Shina Peters, reminded us that grammar “no be money…success”. His postulation is substantially true today as young people make money through dubious means, and relate to education with laxity. Errors in the use of the English language could either be at the level of pronunciation or lexis, and intelligibility would be lost, if interlocutors are drastically at different levels of competence.

The history of Pentecostal fellowships in church growth in Nigeria is not complete with the array of brilliant people that God conscripted to the altar, while on their way to the top as high flyers in their fields and careers. Enoch Adeboye, David Oyedepo, Paul Enenche, and others have, in turn, used the detour divinely occasioned in their trajectories to noticeably impact humanity, with verifiable evidences. Granted that Nigerians are very religious people, these priests have been able to build cult-like followership, with sprawling edifices complementing their rising profiles. Given the revolutionary posturing of some Nigerians, these priests are constantly subjected to scrutiny, with them not also absolutely free from controversies. Central to the vitriolic criticisms these men are confronted with is the issue of taking tithe and offering from their members, which are seen as the sources of their luxurious lifestyles. One wonders if what outsiders say about the religious belief of an individual should influence the targeted people, considering that religion is a private affair.

The dust raised the past days by Paul Eneche, a trained medical doctor turned priest, reminded us of the richness of the altar, at the expense of other spaces like hospitals and classrooms. Enenche was excoriated for openly interrupting and disparaging a church member, Veronica Nnenna Anyim, during a testimony session at the Glory Dome, the global headquarters of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Abuja, on April 14, 2024. Anyim was said to have thanked God for the feat to be the first university graduate in her family, with a Bsc degree in Law. The graduate of the National Open University of Nigeria reportedly graduated with a third class, and got vilified for purportedly not saying the truth, because her English language proficiency and the clarity of her academic credentials suggested a level that was not expected of a university graduate, particularly one with a law degree. The pastor was said to have been driven by his commitment to integrity and standard, as he abhors any form of mediocrity.

Even though the devil was not able to steal the joy of Anyim’s testimony as the Eneches and the church have apologised and reached out to her, the event reminded me of how an undergraduate student, a very long time ago, wrote “no equip in their labu”, apparently to indicate “no equipment in their laboratory”. As we struggle with the many contradictions in Nigeria education sector, and as the English language remains our official language and that of communication, most students in higher institutions today get socialised in pidgin, which is now seen as a contact language; and of convenience. Principles of Basic English usage are murdered by young media practitioners that should be teaching readers and listeners through their acts. Lawyers are hiding under legal jargons to justify their gibberish. This is as students gossip in their familiar Nigerian languages because of the simplicity involved.

We should commend Eneche for his alertness of mind to bring the best out of his congregants, but for the space he did that. He and others could still find some time to switch between the altar and the classroom/hospital, to ensure that their members do not just speak good English, but get filled with developmental and impactful skills. Nigerians should note that religion is not an excuse for indolence or irresponsibility, and must strive towards getting the best out of themselves, for possible conscription by God to the altar in future. Anyim has tried to break the jinx in the family, but a third class degree in Law, laden with poor proficiency in English, could be improved on in the future,  as God is committed to the best,  but not like the case of somebody without known business who gave a testimony for buying a car, valued at twenty million Definitely, we need good teachers back in our classrooms, and fine doctors back in the hospitals, even if we cannot retrieve those on the altars.

Anyim and the teacher on the altar

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